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CHAPTER V DISCUSSION

Introduction

This qualitative, multi-case study explored attachment injury in couples that form stepfamilies. The inquiry sought to answer whether individuals who form a stepcouple describe markers of attachment injury in their relationships and, if so, whether or not these markers are directly attributable to the problems encountered in stepfamily formation and maintenance. Respondents were recruited through the Stepfamily Association of America website, and by word-of-mouth. Nine respondents completed a screening questionnaire and a total of five of those respondents completed an interview, conducted over the Internet using Instant Messenger or email. Each respondent was asked several core questions that were informed by theory regarding attachment injury. Follow-up questions were used to understand and amplify responses.

Relevant literature had initially provided seven markers for attachment injury. These included Irresolvable Problems, Change in Perception of the Partner, Questioning Partner Dependability, Change of Heart, Betrayal of Trust, Abandonment and Detachment. During the analysis, another marker was added, called Pivotal Event. The data were coded yielding several “descriptors” for each marker of attachment injury. Then the data were analyzed through pattern matching, a form of analysis that matched the descriptors in the interview data to the markers for attachment injury. The data analysis was conducted within each interview transcript for the occurrence of attachment injury markers, and then considered across interviews for consistency of the descriptors. The seven marker categories were ultimately combined into four: Irresolvable Problems; Changes in Belief About the Partner, (combining Change of Perception, Change of Heart, Betrayal of Trust and Questioning Partner Dependability); Abandonment and Detachment, (combining two categories) and Pivotal Event. Chapter IV provides a detailed analysis and discussion of the attachment injury markers and their descriptors, as well as their relevance to stepfamily formation, using examples from the interview texts. This discussion will summarize the findings from the five interviews, and consider their relationship to previous research on attachment injury. Limitations to this study, its relevance to clinical practice and potential directions for future research will also be considered. Finally, the researcher will offer some personal reflections.

Summary of Findings

The five respondents all described markers of attachment injury in their stepcouple relational problems. Respondents’ problems could be defined as events, recurrent events or relational processes. In every case, they attributed at least some of their problems as occurring directly due to their stepfamily status.

Initially, seven categories, or “markers,” of attachment injury were considered, based on relevant research. Subcategories of each marker, or “descriptors,” were developed from the interview data. The seven markers were ultimately combined into

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